The system uses a graphic interface that simplifies data input, decreasing inspection and recording time and reducing recording errors. Its computer-based design for recording and saving information offers users immediate access to previous inspection and line-repair history for quick reference.
"Today's utilities must find ways to streamline inspection and maintenance procedures to meet the levels of reliability their customers require," says TIM Users Group chairperson Gail Carney, an engineer at Central Hudson Gas and Electric.
"Too often, inspection data gathered on paper forms or their electronic equivalent are voluminous and inconsistent, varying significantly from inspection to inspection. "Furthermore, the information is so vague that additional field review is required to assess the scope of work and the priority that the work should be given," Carney explains. She adds that these obstacles make it difficult to make an effective evaluation of individual structures, define work scope, and set priorities for an entire transmission system.
TIM meets this need with an integrated system of hardware and software designed to help utilities inspect overhead transmission lines, manage data, and recommend appropriate and cost-effective maintenance action. The system consists of hand-held, pen-based field computers, digital cameras, an office server, and the latest software and links to external products. The module allows users to include such detailed information as structure names, year built, number of line miles and models of structures installed on the lines.
Computer files with this line and structure information can then be transferred directly to the field inspectors through the field module.
This pen-based data collection system steers inspectors through the inspection process and arranges information in a usable format. A digital camera allows field inspectors to record visual images of structures and spans for review by engineering and maintenance staff in the office, and can be used by an inspector on the ground or mounted on a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. These photographic records are then preserved in the database.
"The digital photography feature eliminates costly return trips to the structure location to determine appropriate maintenance," says Janis Guymon of San Diego Gas & Electric – one of 15 utilities currently using the TIM system. "In addition, these digital images help maintenance crews better understand the job they will face in the field, ensuring that they take the required tools and materials to the job site," explains Guymon.
Another interesting aspect of the system is the geographic information system and global positioning statement interface. This feature allows the user to view maps of each transmission line and to choose structures directly from a map.